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Successive governments have introduced measures to speed up the adoption process however the process can still be quite lengthy. The adoption agency will carry out checks on applicants as well as undertaking a thorough assessment in order to ensure, as far as possible, that the adopters they approve are safe carers who are able cope with the challenging task of caring for an adopted child. It is also a life changing decision for you and the different stages of the assessment process will give you an opportunity to consider if adoption is right for you.
Stage 1 - The Application Form
The agency will ask you to complete an application form which will give them permission to carry out a number of checks on you and take up references.
Stage 2 - The Preparation Groups
All prospective adopters will be invited to attend preparation groups which usually consist of approximately 4 full days. This will provide you with opportunities to meet other prospective adopters in the group and learn about the issues for adopted children and how adoption may change your life. Agencies invite people with direct experience of adoption to talk to the groups; people such as foster carers, adopters or even birth parents.
Stage 3 - The Home Assessment
Once you have completed the preparation groups, you will be allocated a social worker who will undertake your home assessment. The worker will visit you (usually in your own home) on approximately 6-8 occasions and the assessment will focus on every aspect of your life to date and ask you to think about how your life will change if you adopt. This can feel intrusive but is a necessary part of the process so it is important that you try to build a trusting relationship with your assessing social worker. At the end of this process the worker will write up the assessment report and will give you a copy of the completed document. You will be surprised how much you can learn about yourself!
Stage 4 - The Adoption Panel
Your assessment report will be presented to the Adoption Panel and you will be given the opportunity to meet the panel who will recommend that you be approved or not. The Agency Decision Maker will then ratify that decision within a few days of the Adoption Panel meeting.
Stage 5 - Family Finding
Once approved as prospective adopters, your social worker will now start to actively seek out a child (or children if you are approved for more than one) to place with you. It is very important to find the right family for a child and social workers will discuss with you specific children in detail in order to ascertain if you are able to meet all the needs of that child. Sometimes a number of different children may be considered before you and the social worker feel that you are a ‘good match’. You will need to become familiar at working with professionals as you will have a lot of contact with social workers during this process and later.
Stage 6 - The Matching Process
Once the right child has been found for you and there is agreement between the child’s agency and your adoption agency on this, the ‘match’ is presented to the child’s agency’s Adoption Panel for approval. Again the panel will make a recommendation and this will be ratified by the Agency Decision Maker.
Stage 7 – Introductions
The next stage is that you and the child will need to get to know each other before the child can move to live with you. This process is called the ‘introductions’. You will be asked to prepare some information about yourself to be given to the child prior to meeting them. Your first meeting will usually be at the home of the foster carer who is looking after the child and you will spend increasing amounts of time with the child over a number of days or weeks until you feel that you know the child well enough and the child feels comfortable with you. This process has to move at the child’s pace in order to ensure a good transition from foster carer to adopters and you will be required to work closely with foster carers during this period. At the end of the introductions the child will move to live with you.
Stage 8 - The Adoption Order
To make an adoption legal, you need to apply for an adoption court order. This gives you parental rights and responsibilities for the child. There are certain minimum periods for which the child must live with the adopters before an adoption order can be made or, in England and Wales, before an application can be made to the court. The precise details vary slightly depending on the country concerned and the circumstances in which the child came to live with the adopters.
Once the order’s been granted by the Court the adoption becomes permanent, you get an adoption certificate - this will show the child’s new name and replaces the original birth certificate, the child has the same rights as if they were your own birth child - e.g. the right of inheritance
The order also takes away parental responsibility from the child’s birth parent(s) anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child